thoughts user experience

Enhance user experience by auto-selecting location


A few days ago I did something I’ve never done before, get take out from Applebees Restaurant. (I am in no way endorsing Applebees, just merely writing about an experience I had with them) Upon visiting their site something sparked my attention. Highlighted on the image above is the closest Applebees location to me. I have never been to this site before or set any type of settings previously.

This was great since I came with a purpose, to look at the menu and call the closest location. By them taking that initial step for me I was able to complete my task quicker. Not to mention if I were deciding between two restaurants of equal quality the one that provided me the most information the fastest would probably get my sale.

Location by IP is not anything new, geotargeted ads are everywhere but using it to help users with primary tasks make them feel a greater sense of customer service and increase your sales and ROI. The retail industry is in the best position to take advantage of this since all brick and mortar sales are driven by location. Other industries may have to get a little more creative.

Like I mentioned above location based targeting is not anything new but its use in new ways can really have an impact on your end users. I know I came away happier.

accessibility thoughts

Avoid frustrating users with tabindex

Even if you can use a mouse most of the time its easier to use a keyboard to fill out web forms. HTML has a nifty attribute called “tabindex” which allows the site creator to dictate how the user will navigate through the forms or links on the page.

The default tab order is usually enough, most forms are filled out linearly and browsers account for that. Sometimes developers get overzealous and add unnecessary tab orders, making the forms a nightmare to fill out.

I encountered one of these nightmare forms the other day. I went to write a letter to my representatives, and going through all the forms I eventually landed on this form. Long story short I started at the top and tabbed my way through it. But the fields led me in a crazy order.

Try to follow this maze


So what happened?

Half the fields had tabindex’s on them, while the other half did not, it made for a pretty unique experience. On Firefox atleast it loops through all the non-tabindexed fields first then hits the tabindexed fields. I used the Web Developer Toolbar to display the tabindex’s in yellow so you can see what I mean. Because these tab index’s were forced there was no way to move from the Prefix field to the First Name field without using a mouse.

The lesson here kids is to use only what you need. Don’t try to be user advanced technology when its not needed, you might just be frustrating more users than you help.

Using the right tabindex

For 99% of all web forms created it is a good idea just to ignore the tabindex attribute and let the order of the fields on the page handle how the user flows through the form. Especially if the form will have new fields or or change frequently, its just another thing to remember to do.

For those one in a million forms that you have to use tabindex my suggestion is to test, test and retest every time you change the form. It would be very easy to forget once and have a large group of frustrated users on your hands.

accessibility event thoughts

[Presentation] Focusing on your Users

This week I had the privileged of speaking at the Michigan Usability Professionals Association (MIUPA) meeting. I can’t explain what a great group of people they are, I feel humbled being around so many people with much more formal experience and training than myself.

[slideshare id=1884615&doc=miupa-focus-on-users-090820053609-phpapp02&w=500]

My Approach

Although I come from a computer science background I love usability, user interaction and user interfaces. My approach has always been ad-hoc and unscientific. I like to just sit back and watch or ask random people in their natural settings and see how they react. Which ultimately leads to an ever evolving UI based on these observations and actions.

This method comes from my belief in the release early, release often agile development methodology. Small incremental steps that lead to the full result while making improvement along the way.

Usability Professionals

The audience was primarily usability professionals who pretty much do this for a living. So although I created the presentation above it really did not get used. I made the presentation more of a discussion about everyone’s experiences and how mine synced or collided with theirs.

The best part was a group from MSU’s Usability & Accessibility Center came all the way from Lansing. It was great to hear and talk with them about similar struggles higher education web professionals have.

Thank You

Overall it was a great meeting with most people staying after to talk further. I wanted to thank the MIUPA again for hosting me and the Southfield Public Library for providing a rocking facility.


Refresh Detroit March Meeting

So I attended the Refresh Detroit meeting a few days ago in Ann Arbor, MI. The speaker was Barb Hernandez, User Experience Manager at TechSmith. She talked about refreshing the UI of SnagIt.

SnagIt is a screen capture application for Windows. I am not familiar with too many trialware applications for windows since its not part of my daily routine. But I know there are quite a few programs like this out there since it is not a built in feature.

She went over the previous UI and some initial problems they identified. Then brought everyone through how they do user testing and what methods they found useful to make changes to the UI.

My opinion was they did a good job, I am not use to software being so clunky since I work mainly on the web and on Apple products so the UI changes they made looked pretty good. Hard to relate them to the web tho since Windows has a pretty constricting (boring imo) layout options.

It was interesting how their process worked. They did impression testing where they showed the mockup for 5 seconds then asked the participants to sketch as much as they remember. They also used emotion cards but she did not explain exactly how they conducted it, she just showed a list which seemed to be completely contradictory items, not very much help.

One thing I was disappointed about was how she made a big deal about Ethnographic Testing but could not explain how they conducted it or really explain it in any detail because it would ruin their “next release”. Funny because all the people in the room were pretty much from the web world and they are releasing it in the next few weeks, its not like we would have stole their idea and recreate their software.

Anyways, all in all it was a good meeting. Talking more with the Refresh Detroit leadership really got me excited for the upcoming meetings.

To see if there is a refreshing meeting near you checkout the Refreshing Cities site. It is a great way for web developers, designers and usability professionals to get together and learn from each other.